3 December 2012

South Africa: World Aids Day - SA 'On the Right Path'

The journey towards an Aids-free world has begun and South Africa is on the right path, says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

"Our common vision of an Aids-free world is now possible and attainable, let's continue to strive towards its realisation," Motlanthe said during an event marking World Aids Day in Potchefstroom, North West province on Saturday.

The Deputy President commended the Department of Health for being instrumental in enabling the country to introduce a single dose of the triple combination of tenofovir, entricitabine and efavirenz for people living with HIV, starting from April next year.

The new drug will enable people living with HIV to take only one pill a day to maintain their health. Motlanthe said this would help the government to save up to R2.2-billion over two years thanks to a 38 percent reduction in drug costs.

Motlanthe said the increase in South Africans' life expectancy, from 56 to 60 years between 2008 and 2011, could be attributed to the expanded access to state-sponsored antiretroviral treatment.

He said there was also a reduction in the rate of mother to child transmission of HIV, from 8 percent in 2008 to 3.5 percent in 2010 and 2.7 percent in 2011.

According to the Deputy President, the rate of new HIV infections has also declined, especially in young people, thanks to the adoption of safer sex practices and reduction in the number of sexual partners.

In terms of screening, he said 800 000 diagnostic tests for TB using the new Gene Expert technology had been conducted, and the government was working further on decreasing the time-frame between diagnosis and treatment.

Motlanthe also announced that more people were now enrolling for the state's anti-retroviral programme, bringing the total number of South Africans on treatment to 1.9-million to date.

He said South Africa had used best practice and evidence to guide its interventions, such as the home-grown circumcision programme, which had reached 619 000 medical male circumcisions.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi urged the nation to play safe to curb new HIV infections. "As a nation, let's play safe to curb new HIV infections. We want to encourage each South African to do an HIV test once per year," he said.

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